Today I will be showing you how I built my counterflow chiller the total cost was under $60, the grand total was $55.39. Below you will find the instructions, as well as a parts list. I do not have soldering equipment, like a blowtorch. And since I never had a need for one until now, I didn’t want to spend an additional $40-$50 buying a torch, solder, flux, and so on. I went with a copper bond epoxy which you can find by the other soldering stuff. It is rated for both hot and cold applications as well as potable water. It was a much cheaper alternative for me than buying soldering equipment. If you have soldering equipment, you can just solder the joints instead of using epoxy. I should note that this project took me 2 hours, doing this all by myself. OK, so here we go. But if in the end you find yourself not wanting but build one, but buy on instead for a reasonable price. Click Here for a premade chiller for under $100.
- 25′ All Rubber Hose (for hot and cold applications): $22 on Amazon with Free Shipping (I used this, it was on sale at Amazon at the time. Places like Lowes, Menards, Fleet Farm, and Home Depot also have all rubber hoses. Watch for them to go on sale. My friend picked up a 50′ one for $19.99 on sale)
- 20′-25′ of3/8″ OD Soft Copper Tubing: $14.24 at Lowes or $18 on Amazon (My area does not sell 25′ lengths, I could only find 20′. I’m not concerned about the loss of 5′, groundwater in WI is fairly cool)
- Copper Bond Epoxy: $5.93 at Lowes
- 1/2″ X 24″ Type L copper Pipe: $5.06 at Lowes
- 2- 1/2″ to 1/4″ Copper Coupler: $1.61/ea at Lowes
- 2- 1/2″ Copper Tee: $.49/ea at Lowes
- 4- Stainless Steel Hose clamps large enough for Rubber Hose: $.99/ea at Lowes
- Silicone adhesive (had on-hand)
- Tubing cutter or Hacksaw
- Sharp knife or scissors.
- Flat Head Screwdriver
- Something to spread the epoxy, like an old knife or a Popsicle stick.
- Drill with 3/8″ drill bit.
Step 1: Uncoil the soft copper tubing as straight as possible. I used the space between boards on my deck to unroll the tubing into, then used my feet to straigten it.
Step 2: Next you want to lay out your hose alongside the rolled out tubing so you can get an idea of where to cut the ends of the hose off (save those ends, you are going to need them later). Once you have a good idea of how much tubing you want to stick out (I used about 6″ or so) cut the ends of the rubber hose using a sharp knife or scissors. I should also add that some people solder copper wire in a twisting pattern around the copper tube. I personally don’t think I need this because the water is not in a stationary flow to begin with, as it turns through the chiller, it will be moving around giving plenty of contact to the hot copper tubing. If you want to solder or adhere a twisted copper wire at this stage, feel free to do so.
Step 3: Insert the copper hose into the rubber hose. Some people used soapy water, or soap on the outside of the copper for lubrication. I found I did not need to do this, my tubing went in just fine without any lubrication. If you have a hard time, don’t force it. Pull the tube out and use dish soap to lubricate the tubing.
Step 4: Now we will start assembling the attachments for the ends of the counterflow. This is the part where the water will enter and exit the unit. The first step is to take the 1/2″ to 1/4″ coupling (which actually has a 3/8″ ID on the 1/4″ side. It sounds confusing but trust me) and you need to drill it out with a 3/8″ drill bit. This is because of the stop that is inside. Since you want your 3/8″ copper tubing to slide all the way through, you need to drill out that rim that would stop the tubing.
Step 5: before going any further, make sure you drilled out enough to get the soft copper to slide through, it should be snug and tight, but yet allow the tubing through.
Step 6: Now you will take your 1/2″ X 24″ (you may be able to get away with 12″ length, but I thought it best to have a bit more) and cut out 6 lenghts of copper. I cut 2 pieces at 2″ for coupling the tee and reducer together, 2-3″ pieces for connecting the Tee to the hose, and 2-4″ pieces for connecting the water inlet and outlet hoses. I do not have a tubing cutter, but I do have a hacksaw. It worked just fine for me. I ground the burrs on the ends on the cement. A poor mans file.
Step 7: Always check your work! Put the pieces together first just to make sure the assembly will go together well once you mix the epoxy. The epoxy only takes 20 minutes to cure completely. So it’s best to do a dry run fitting. I know the outlet/inlet pipes look super long, but they are not as long as they appear here. Must be a weird angle.
Step 8: Assemble the parts with the epoxy. I used copper bond to assemble the parts. The next few pictures show how I put the joints together. I mixed the epoxy, then I spread the epoxy on the outside of the tubing, I also put a little bit on the inside rim of the other piece. Then when you push them together, you give it a little twist to make sure you have complete coverage. I then take whatever is on the outside and make sure it also seals the rim.
Step 9: Attach one of the assemblies you just built to one end of the counterflow chiller. This will help ensure that the copper tubing will not slide out during the coiling process. The way I attached the assembly with the epoxy is that I first put the assembly in farther than I wanted. I then put a ring on epoxy on the soft copper tubing, then pushed the assembly into place. I then put a thin layer of silicone adhesive I already had on-hand on the outside of the 1/2″ copper pipe that the hose will attach to, then put the hose clamp on. See the picture below, it will make more sense.
Step 10: On the opposite side from which you just attached your assembly, take an empty corney keg (or other round object about the same size) and start wrapping the hose around it. Some people claim you need to fill the soft copper tubing with water or something like that to prevent kinking. I found that not to be the case. A corney keg does not stress out the soft copper enough to kink it, as long as you take your time. But if you want to fill it with water and crimp the ends, then by all means feel free to do so.
Step 11: Admire your work at this point. It looks like a chiller!
Step 12: We are not done yet, although it does look like a counter flow chiller now. Now you just need to assemble the other end just like you did prior to coiling the chiller. Remember to put bead of silicone adhesive to help seal and adhere the hose to the copper tubing. Then use a hose clamp to finish it off.
Step 13: The very last step is to take the ends of the hose you cut off and attach them to the outlet tubes. Be mindful that the beer will go in from your kettle at the top and flow down, so you need to put your hose attachment on the bottom, so the water will flow upwards in the chiller, the opposite way the beer flows. So if there is a side you want to be your beer out side, that should be the bottom and where you attach the hose where water will come in. See below how mine is set up. With the end that will attach to the incoming hose at the bottom (I know that is a long piece but I wanted a longer reach anyway). The last thing I am going to do is use zip ties to hold the coils together tightly. I do not have any on-hand but I will complete that step tomorrow. The total time the project took me to complete was about 2 hours by myself.